BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Ronni Williams is heading to the WNBA, making her the first Volusia County woman to be drafted by the professional basketball league.
The former Atlantic High School and University of Florida (UF) basketball standout was drafted April 13 by the Indiana Fever in the second round. The 6-food-2-inch guard was the 22nd overall draft pick.
“I was in shock. I just stood there clapping my hands and I shed a few tears. It’s a dream come true. I smiled. I was happy. All the hard work paid off,” Williams said.
The WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) has 12 teams and the draft consists of three rounds. The league was founded in 1996. Before then, America’s best women players had to go overseas to play.
“I am glad that we have a league in this country. I’m blessed to be able to compete here in the U.S. and not automatically have to go overseas,’’ Williams added. It’s a blessing. I thank God. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m going to come out and do my best.”
‘Ready to go’
Williams is off to Indianapolis, Indiana for training next week. Her team training camp begins April 27.
“The biggest challenge is just getting into training camp and learning a new system and getting into the flow. I now have to earn my way. I’m ready to go. I am going to give my all. I have to get into the flow,” she added.
During the draft, Williams waited anxiously at her draft party, held in Daytona.
“I was nervous sitting there waiting to hear my name called. I think that’s nerve-racking for anyone. I was also sitting and waiting with my family, friends and loved ones,’’ she shared.
Williams will graduate from UF later this month with a Bachelor of Science degree in Telecommunications-Media and Society.
Leading UF scorer
During her senior year with the Florida Gators, she led the team in scoring with 19.2 points per game. She also averaged 7.8 rebounds.
Williams was named to the First Team All-SEC and became the first Gator in program history to lead the conference in scoring. She averaged 20.1 points per game in SEC contests.
She also was named to the WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches All-American Team Honorable Mention.
She led the Gators in scoring the past three years.
During her UF career, she scored over 1,400 (12.1 points per game) points and over 800 rebounds (6.7 rebounds per game). She scored in every game except one.
At Atlantic High School in Port Orange, Williams was named the area Player of the Year for all four years and led the Sharks to two Final Four appearances, including one state runner-up.
She averaged over 20 points and double figures in rebounds each year.
Williams began playing at the YMCA at 3 years old.
As a kid, she played at Daytona Beach PAL as well as (AAU) Amateur Athletic Union basketball in Orlando and at Campbell Middle School.
She always dreamed of playing professionally but never could have visualized it.
Williams told the Daytona Times, “I absolutely wanted to be a basketball player as a kid. I dreamed it, but I didn’t see it. I didn’t know what to see or to expect.
“My two favorite WNBA players growing up were Tamika Catchings (now a teammate) and Swin Cash. I never knew much about the actual league. I just knew that this is what I wanted to do. I knew it was to play in the WNBA or overseas.”
Throughout her life, she has worked hard to overcome her challenges as a player.
“I always had something to improve on every year from childhood up until now. Recently, it has been extending my shooting range, especially around the three-point line. I just need to get more confident shooting out there,” she remarked.
“At Florida, I didn’t need to shoot out there so much. Every year there is a challenge and a way to improve your game.’’
Williams also faced challenges off the court.
“I always had to be away from family during get togethers, holidays and cookouts. I always spent a lot of time away playing basketball. I am a big family person. I missed seeing a lot of family play sports, dance and do other things,’’ she related.
She strives to be a role model for girls.
“I try to live my life as an example for others, especially young girls who have dreams that they want to come true. I live as if someone is watching. No one thought a girl from Daytona could get this far, but it’s happening now. I hope I can give kids hope and inspiration that anything could happen if they put in the work,” Williams stated.
For other up-and-coming players Williams has this advice.
“Just put in the hard work. Don’t just talk it. You have to be about it. You’ve got to do it. Hard work pays off. You’ve got to work for it.”